9th July, 2013 at 6:30pm
A Summer of Learning - The Infographic History of the World
| YCN — Free

On 9th July, we welcomed two of the minds behind an innovative new book about human existence, The Infographic History of the World, to YCN.

We were joined by designer Valentina D’Efilippo and editor Craig Adams who, alongside data journalist James Ball, put the impressive volume together.

Craig kicked off the talk with an introduction to the book, stating how he wanted to create a title about human history which was more involving than others found on the market. Looking to such titles as E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World and David McCandless’ Information is Beautiful for inspiration, Craig came to the conclusion that visual explanations of events and facts are much more engaging than their written counterparts. He decided to produce a book that documented all 13.8 billion years of history on Earth through the medium of infographics.

Armed with a concept, and a one sentence-long proposal penned by James, Craig set out to get the idea approved. We heard how when pitching to a publisher, it is necessary to think of the book from a purely financial perspective. Calculating how much the book will cost and researching how similar titles have fared in the marketplace will always give the publisher confidence in your idea.

We then heard from Valentina, who was chosen to design the infographics for the book after responding to a data visualisation brief from James and Craig. We heard about the sheer volume of work that went into the project. A cover design and over 100 infographics over 112 spreads were to be produced over the course of 28 weeks. This meant creating an astonishing four spreads a week – certainly a baptism of fire for Valentina, who had never designed a book before.

Valentina discussed at length the creative thinking behind the design, stating how the colour palettes and paper stocks (this is the first book by HarperCollins to be published on both coated and uncoated paper) mirror the content of the title. As the narrative of human history progresses, the spreads in the book become bolder, glossier and more minimal to reflect the modern world.

We were then given an invaluable insight into how an infographic is made. Using an example from the book, Valentina talked us through the entire process, which begins with receiving a spreadsheet full of data. Being faced with so many numbers prompted Valentina to devise a system in Excel that would make the content more manageable. This was then exported as a simple chart in Adobe Illustrator and, once an original concept had been found, transformed into a wonderfully engaging infographic.

The duo then spoke about the cover of the book, which in itself visualised data. Whilst book jackets are usually always designed by the publisher’s in-house graphic design team, Valentina took the reigns on this title, creating an inforgraphic that represented its content in terms of chapters and spreads.

The talk concluded with Craig and Valentina discussing their five tips on how to survive making a book. These were have fun and not fear experimentation; get un-stuck if ever stuck; when in doubt, ask your mum (Valentina suggested that a person from a non-design background, such as your mother, will always give you an honest answer as to whether or not your work has the desired effect); be tidy and ask for help when you need it.

We would like to say thank you to Valentina and Craig for their insightful presentation, and to everyone who came along to the event. Join YCN today to find out more about other talks and events we will be hosting in the future.

Photography courtesy of Piero Zagami. The Infographic History of the World is now available to buy here.

Event Details
  • Location:
    72 Rivington Street,
    London, EC2A 3AY,
    United Kingdom
  • Start:
    9th July, 2013 at 6:30pm
  • End:
    9th July, 2013 at 8:00pm
  • Cost:
    Free

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